Which credit card issuers are accepted in Canada?
|Merchant acceptance||ATM acceptance|
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There’s good news: Our northern neighbor loves credit cards as much as we do. Unlike in Europe — where you’ll rely on cash for many transactions — in Canada, you can often get by with just your card.
Before taking your card to Canada, however, there are a few things you should know: fees, how to keep your card safe, where to get cash and more.
If you’re taking along a variety of cards, debit cards and cash, read our full guide on spending money while traveling in Canada.
|Merchant acceptance||ATM acceptance|
Though Canada is just a hop and a skip across the border, your spending there is still subject to international fees. In particular, you’ll want to avoid foreign transaction fees and currency conversion fees.
A foreign transaction fee is assessed when you use your card abroad, and it’s usually 3% of each transaction (though can be more, depending on your card).
Most credit cards have foreign transaction fees. However, all good travel cards come with no foreign transaction fees. For a few excellent cards, look into the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card and BankAmericard Travel Rewards.
A merchant may offer to convert your bill into US dollars instead of charging you in Canadian dollars. This is called dynamic currency conversion, and it’s expensive because you’ll pay a currency conversion fee for it. If a merchant offers it, take a hard pass.
A common benefit of travel cards is their lack of foreign transaction fees. This means that you won’t have to worry about paying a fee every time you use your card while traveling. Although foreign transaction fees are often small, they can add up quickly over the course of a trip.
Over the past few years, your card providers have probably upgraded your existing credit cards to one with a chip inside. These cards are called, unsurprisingly, chip cards.
In the United States, we mostly have chip-and-signature cards — you must provide a signature during a transaction to verify your identity. Meanwhile, in Canada chip-and-PIN cards are standard. With this type of card, you enter a four-digit personal identification number to verify your identity.
You’re not out of luck if you only have a chip-and-signature card. If you don’t have a PIN, Canadian point-of-sale systems will ask you to provide a signature to complete each transaction.
If you’d like, you can turn your card into a hybrid signature/PIN card — just ask your provider for a PIN.
Alternatively, you can pick up an actual chip-and-PIN card. Two such cards often recommended by travelers are the State Department Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum and the Andrews Federal Credit Union Visa.
If you’re stuck with a magstripe card, you’ll likely be fine in Canada — card machines often allow swiping. Regardless, consider calling your provider to get a chip card. This type of card is generally considered more secure than magstripe cards, and it’s already standard around the world.
For the most part, you’re quite safe from credit card fraud in Canada. You’ll rarely be on the hook for fraudulent transactions. Even if you owe money, US law states you can only be charged a maximum of $50.
As with all destinations, however, there’s the possibility your credit card information could be stolen. Here are a few ways to avoid it.
Thieves don’t just steal credit card information by recording your card number — they can also steal the card itself.
Pickpocketing isn’t a huge problem in Canada — certainly not as big of a problem as it is in Europe. However, it’s still a good idea to remain vigilant, especially in larger cities. Keep your belongings close, even if you’re in a supposedly safe place like a restaurant.
To decrease the chances your credit card will be stolen, consider keeping it in a money belt. This is a fabric pouch that you wear around your waist and hide under your shirt or in your pants. Also, consider neck pouches, hidden pockets or a belt with hidden pockets.
Before heading to Canada, ensure that you can use your credit card with no problems.
Though you can likely use your credit card everywhere you go in Canada, you may need to get cash at some point. Unfortunately, it can be very expensive to get cash from your credit card. That’s because your card provider will charge you a cash advance fee as well as a higher interest rate for cash advances.
Check out this card’s pricing information table. As you can see, the cash advance APR is 25.74%, which is higher than the APR you’ll get for purchases or balance transfers.
Not only that, but you’ll see that a cash advance comes with a high fee. At a minimum, you’ll pay $10. But you might pay more because the fee is the greater of $10 or 5% of your transaction. If you take out a $300 cash advance, for example, you’ll pay the 5% fee — that’s $15.
Of course, credit-card ATM withdrawals may also be subject to foreign transaction fees. The implication is clear: Don’t use your credit card at ATMs.
Instead of relying on your credit card to get cash, look for a low-fee debit or ATM card.
The debit card from the Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account is one excellent pick. It reimburses you for any fees you may incur at ATMs. And because it’s not a credit card, you won’t have to worry about cash advance interest.
Even better, the card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. That means you can avoid the 1% to 3% fee that credit and debit cards often charge.
Before you travel to Canada, answers these questions:
Once you’ve made these arrangements, you’re all set to use your credit card on your next Canadian trip. Safe travels!
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